Morbidly Curious Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership,

S2: the following podcast contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, August 19th, the Morbidly Curious Edition, and Jamilah Jamilah, a writer contributor to Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting column, and mom Tinamba, who is eight. And we live in Los Angeles, California.

S3: I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the homeschool and Family Travel blog? Dutch Dutch Goose. And I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s nine, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy who’s four. We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado,

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S4: and I’m a Aymann Ismail and I’m tired. My son was born two months ago. His name is Moossa. He’s everything to me. But also I’m really mad at him because he kept me up all night last night. So that’s that’s where I’m stuck.

S2: Well, welcome to Avin. I have to admit, I did not expect you to be the new Dan. I was like, he’s got to be so tired right now.

S4: I don’t think I’m anywhere close to being Dan, but I. I don’t know. I read a little bit of his book, How to Be a Family, and so far it’s not really that helpful. I’d like to just pick up and go to to Sweden and try some things out. But I’m right now just trying to manage the crying, manage the guys, trying to figure out if Pupi actually ever comes out of your fingers or not. Oh, my God, those are my questions.

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S2: Oh, well, these are questions that some of us have left long in the past. So we’re happy to have you to help our listeners out as a brand spanking new father and newly minted expert, because that’s what happens when a man starts something. It’s like two months, then it’s like expert. We have you here to help out latha people’s problems like we did last week. So welcome. We are happy to have you hanging out with us for a while while Dan is on leave, put on hold. And today we’re going to be answering a listener question from a parent whose sweet little six year old daughter has recently become fixated on the idea of finding a cure for death. Girl meets who? How can her mother guide her little one through this curious time without crushing her creativity? Then we’re going to get some, quote unquote, advice to a listener who’s trying to navigate her relationship to her own co-dependent parents. How can she set boundaries with them without souring the relationship they have with her four children on Slate? Plus, for the cool kids, we’ll be talking about climate change and how does it talk about it with our little ones without making them anxious or afraid. But for now, we’re going to start with triumphs and fails. Elizabeth, what do you have for us this week? A triumph or fail?

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S3: I am sharing like a really basic triumph that feels kind of huge in that we sent Henry off to his first day of full time school. The last time we did this was in the Netherlands many years ago. And when we dropped him off at school, no one spoke English. So this already, you know, we were like prepping for the day. But it’s it’s been this big thing, one, because I talked about last week, like the IEP and just trying to get everything in place, but also like up until June, the plan was that he would continue homeschooling and going to a one day a week home school academy until we got the call that he was going to full time school. And and Henry takes a long time to make those pivot’s. And so I wasn’t really sure, like when the day came, you know, how it was going to be, how the morning was going to go. We we had had a little flare up of his pandas and so have been kind of like some extra medications, which sometimes makes these things more difficult. But guys, he like we pulled up in the carpool line. There was not an opportunity for me to, like, walk him anywhere because they just a teacher greets them and they just go, I did have to park and bring some medicines in, but that was like totally separate from him. And he just like did it. He went it was great. We did ice cream yesterday with the one little friend that he knows going to school. The kids from the school come from all over the district. So the good thing is that nobody no, it’s 78 kids from kind of all different schools. So nobody really knows anybody. And they’re all outside. And he was like, Mom, everyone is nice. There was a little girl who offered to walk with him to get his medicines. He takes them like after lunch, but before kind of the next activity is to walk to the office. And she was like, I’ll go with you. And just like that, just like warms my heart. So if you’re Sadie’s mom and you happen to be listening, you’ve raised an amazing an amazing daughter who who made my son just, like, so happy because he was like I wasn’t I wasn’t the only one missing. I mean, I think they were missing, like, lining up, but it just felt great. I know every day is not going to be great, but to have a good first day feels like such a win and just like a validation that we’ve made the right choice for him and that he’s going to have like all these opportunities and to kind of grow and try some new things. I’m super excited about that. It’s not it’s really more his triumph. But as we do here, I’m claiming it as my own.

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S4: That’s so cute.

S2: That is a tremendous. Family Triad’s, you can’t hope for a better first day of school, and there’s nothing like a good first day of school to start the year off, this is a huge deal. So congratulations.

S3: We’re excited. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of crazy stories about things that have happened at school. But for today, we’re just taking the taking the win of a great first day and of course, ice cream after, which is always great.

S2: Yes, that always feels like a triumph no matter what. Aymann what about you? Do you have a try out here at that point where everything should feel like a triumph to you but probably feels like a fail, but it really is a triumph every single day that you’re still doing this.

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S4: I’m embarrassed to share my triumph because my triumph of the week is like getting a shower and not having to, like, rush out.

S3: No, that’s a great triumph.

S4: It’s so embarrassing. But I think seriously, though, one of my biggest triumphs for the whole week, I would say, would be we went to the doctor’s office and we made it on time. And on time, he was five minutes late, so we made it on time, right? We didn’t have to reschedule and that’s a big deal.

S3: You didn’t you didn’t have any, like, blowouts on the way out the door. You didn’t forget anything in the diaper bag like this is amazing.

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S4: It’s huge. And we live in Newark, New Jersey. So just to get out of the car, even just get outside is is a huge endeavor. Right, because it’s not just a matter of like making sure that you’re prepared. You also have to look out for other crazy drivers and traffic and construction and all that stuff. So we somehow timed it. We were like, OK, last time it took us an hour to get in the car. So let’s just skip it was planned out that way. But right before then, it was like an hour and 15. So I was like, I got time. Let me wait for that 15 minutes. I go on to do some work. I look up and it’s like, oh my God, we have a half hour left. What are we going to do? So we have his bag. We have like his budget back, which is like everything is prepared. We leave it prepared and then we throw him in the chair. He was crying. We were like, we don’t care. We’re just gonna throw our shoes on. We throw him in the car. And we were we basically skedaddled our whole way there. And when we got there, the room wasn’t actually even ready. So we had to sit there and wait for them to let us in. But we were like, buddy, we made it on time. That felt really good. That felt really, really good. And he got his he got two vaccine shots while he was there. And, you know, the first one, he didn’t even notice. He didn’t even cry. We had pacifier his mouth that he kind of looked like something happened. The second one, though, he was like, oh, I hate this. You guys are torturing me. And it was you know, he got over in like a half hour. So that’s another triumph.

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S3: See, I think you’re already setting yourself up for so much success

S2: because with babies, it really

S3: is about these little moments as successes because there’s like so much that like they cry to tell you that they need something, but you never know what that is. And it always feels like a you know, like if you don’t get it on the first try, it feels like a failure. And just like life is harder. So I think you are definitely on the right like boat by saying, like, yes, these little things are triumphs and we’re doing these right. And every day we’re going to have some triumph and every day we’re going to have surveils. And that’s that’s OK. And we’re going to, like, really cherish these triumphs of being on time. I think that that’s great.

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S4: You’re so sweet. Thank you.

S2: My daughter is eight years old. We if we make it within and we’re so much better. I mean, like each year it gets better, you know, but like, I to this day think that within ten minutes of our stated appointment or whatever time we’re supposed to be there is on time with any kid, period, baby. I would say like you should have a twenty minute grace period. I had to have a word with a nurse at our pediatrician’s office when Nyima was maybe going for like our second round of shots. Like she said, I’m not sure if they’re going to see because I was eleven minutes late, I was like, well, if you see I didn’t come in with a nanny. I went to we went to a pediatrician where everyone else had a fucking nanny. I was like, you can’t just take your kids to the doctor. I was so like about that. So anyway, no, you were early, you were there the day before, but like, you’ve already had the next round of shots. That’s how I had you are. So congratulations.

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S4: Thank you. I’m so proud of him.

S2: So I also have a tryout. So we’re three triple trials go trials this week. Dan never let this happen. So I NamUs first day of school is yesterday. Wow. She is a third grader, which I cannot believe. I just in no way do I feel like somebody who’s old enough to have a third grader like that is just such a like level of maturity and adulthood that I just didn’t even know was possible. You know what I mean? Like yours that’s grown and grown and like here I am, you know, like in some real adult ladies shoes, pretending to be a grown up mom, lady of a third grader. But somehow I did get Nyima to school. Where are we on time? No, but it didn’t matter because the L.A. Unified School District was just as prepared for yesterday as I was, which is that all they had was an outfit and that was about it. So the outfit was on point with point. Thank you. You can see the pictures on my Instagram. It’s just my name name I had on a Whitney Houston shirt that she picked out. She’s going through a fallen ladies thing right now, Whitney Selena, as we talked about on the show a couple of weeks ago. And so it’s a little morbid, but it’s cool. So she had a Whitney Houston kind of vintage style t shirt and gold pleather shorts and bright pink bands and a leopard print bucket hat and a little leopard purse. And she was just, you know, feeling herself. She had her hair all out. It was very cool, she had a look for day one, and when we got there, it occurred to me that was like, right, I’m supposed to have this daily pass thing, you know, because, like, every day you have to have, like, a barcode that they scanned, like verifies that or they confirm that your kid is up to date on their covid testing. And so I like somewhere in this. I need to know this kid’s like school. I probably know her school ID number. Maybe I need a login like. So I go to the LAUSD website like every parent, like there’s like the whole school is outside looking for there. No, everybody is going through the same struggle. Also, uniforms were made optional. So I went from I think we should just keep her in the uniform to like, why the fuck would we do that? So that’s why I’m like, this is the first time we’ve been in a knot like that. She has not had to wear uniforms. So we’ve never been able to, like, do this. There’s a lot of pressure on me now to get these outfits off every day. But we’ve never been able to do this for school. This has always been just like a weekend thing, you know, like, oh, my gosh, I actually wear her clothes before she outgrows them. And I just going to, like, sit there while she wears blue every day. But every parent was outside looking crazy, but we got her in within a reasonable amount of time. Her dad was able to give me her school ID number and I got the PIN number that he had been trying to get for six months. They just like gave to me at the school very easily. And like we were equally like not prepared for this. But I was the one who’s supposed to be here because I was actually the one that had to do day one. But she got in and she saw her friends and she had a good day. And as a bonus, Triumph’s fail. I was reminded on the way home from the first day of school that she is, in fact my daughter. And so, like, you know, I asked her, like, OK, so tell me all about what you want to hear. Everything she’s like. OK, well, so first the boys. OK, so I know not in the way that that sounded that it was, but then it was exactly what is that like. What was her talking about grouping the boys into the best D versus her crash. But like I was like this is my daughter, this is my child. Here we are. But it was a successful first day. She was happy. She felt cute.

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S3: She looks so confident in the Instagram photos like that. When you posted that, I was like, man, this girl is she’s ready. She is like, I feel great. Today is going to be good. Like, she just is like radiating that in her in her photos,

S2: the way she walked off from me, like, without all the extra hugs. And Naimah is a clanger. If she’s not comfortable, she will literally attach herself to the back of my leg with no shame. She’ll stand behind me. I’m like, you’re completely visible. Like you cannot be obscured behind me, behind one of my legs like that. I’m not as big as you think I am, but she’ll do it. Like if she’s scared or somebody makes her uncomfortable, she’ll just like, pretend to be invisible. But like, she was like, all right, bye. After, like, one hug. I was just still standing there, like looking for third grade guys.

S4: It’s like that scene from the movie Fatherhood, where he goes, all right, she’s going to have some attachment issues. Just be very gentle. And he turns around and she’s already down the hall. She’s always having fun.

S2: It’s all right. Yeah, it’s the attachment issues. I think maybe third grade is the point where, like, the separation anxiety, like is just completely mine. Like, I have it now three years

S3: from now to college, though. That’s the problem.

S2: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Let’s get into our first listener question, being red, as usual, by the lovely Shasha Lanard.

S5: Dear mom and dad, with covid, the recent loss of our family dog and her grandfather’s health declining, our dear, sweet, empathetic six year old daughter has become very concerned with the concept of death. She has her heart set that she will discover a cure for all of death and tells everyone that she knows that this is her life goal. She gets quite adamant and emotional when discussing her new passion, and it seems extremely urgent to her, which makes our friends and family anxious and sad on her behalf. Sometimes she’ll even frantically mix together concoctions in the kitchen or garden in an effort to find the cure. We are trying to give her realistic expectations. Maybe she could become a doctor and work on a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s. We’ve explained how DNA copies itself and can’t do so forever. How the Earth couldn’t provide resources for everyone if no one ever dies gently but firmly guiding her to other pursuits. But she’s not feeling it. Her latest plan is that if it’s not possible in reality, she’ll have to appeal to Santa Claus to use his magic to cure death, which is just a whole new angle to address. What do I do as an atheist? I don’t want to give her what I perceive as false hope in some magical, happy place we’ll all go when we die. Although I have told her we don’t know what happens after death and our atoms will continue and be a part of the universe forever in some form. On the other hand, I love her creativity and drive and don’t want to stifle that with too much cold, brutal truth. What would you say to comfort or redirect a child like this that I haven’t already thought of? It’s been several months that this has been troubling her. So my hope that this would be a passing phase is dwindling.

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S2: OK, we’ll start with you, Elizabeth. But can I just say that when I was around the same age, I didn’t have any aspirations around, like curing dads, but I like held on to the belief that I would like live long enough for there to be a cure for death. And so, like, I didn’t think I’d ever be an organ donor because I don’t want them to cut my body up because I want to come back. And I think that speaks to my inability to like I’ve gotten better with death. But it took me to be like a woman in my 30s like to really process death. Like I tried a lot of stuff to not have to deal with the fact that one day I, too, am going to die. And I feel like that’s what I’m hearing from this little one, that this isn’t just the idea of losing people, but like that now she’s been forced with confronting her own mortality.

S3: Yeah, I mean, I, I completely agree with that assessment that to me, this letter reeks of like I still have questions about death. I have anxiety about death because fundamentally I haven’t come to terms with my own death, which is, you know, something as humans that we have to do. And to me, this is talking about death is one of the things like we on this show talk about like you need to talk to your kids about racism that exists and like how the world works. You need to talk to your kids about sex. You need to talk to your kids about death. It is it is something especially in, you know, covid times is happening, but it also is happening all the time in many different ways. And I think the problem is that it’s something that when you’re talking to your kids, you’re fundamentally talking about, like at some point one of us is going to leave the other one. And that is a really uncomfortable conversation to have. But I also think that, like, death is all around us in literature and movies in nature. And these are there are opportunities here that in the same ways to have these very, like, compassionate and honest conversations about death. Now, I do think if you feel like this is going on for a a long time and that you have had all of these kind of conversations and done the things we’re talking about, this is absolutely a reason to bring in a professional and go talk to a counselor about what’s happening, because clearly your your child is trying to process something and your job as the adult in their life is to try to help them process this. And I think that’s, you know, by acknowledging that everyone dies at some point. But I I also feel like we’re focusing on the fact that she wants to cure death is kind of the wrong thing, because eventually reality will set in that you can’t cure death. So that’s one of the things to me that doesn’t need to be corrected. Like, you don’t always need to be the person being like, well, you can’t cure death, you can’t cure death. I think what you can say is that it’s really sad when someone dies and it’s it’s, you know, that is really hard. I have a hard time with it. I think you can explain facts about death. A lot of times we kind of sugarcoat things around death and say like, well, she passed on or she they left us or the dog went, you know, here, like, whatever that whatever language you’re using. And for kids, that can be really confusing. And so I think talking about the fact that in death, the body stops working is important to just to understand kind of that fact and give language to that. And I’m not saying you should have these conversations all the time, but there are plenty of opportunities to process this. If you’re doing any kind of like read aloud with kids. I know I’ve had really great conversations both when reading Charlotte’s Web and Harry Potter about death and about, you know, my kids asking like, well, are they going to come back? And it’s like, well, they’re they’re not going to come back in the same way they were here before. Right. Because like in Harry Potter, we’ve got Dumbledore comes back and is a presence for Harry. Right. But those sort of things being able to process with them that way, that like. Yeah, but they’re not going to be here like on Earth again and understanding that that’s kind of the the part of life. I think if you have spiritual views about death, this is a you’re welcome to share them. But I also I think this parent is really looking like we don’t have those. Do I need to share them? It’s like, no, you can be really factual. About what? About what death means. And I think also letting your child know that it is something that makes you sad as well. Like, so often our kids don’t know, you know, that it’s something that happens and that you’ve experienced it. We talk a lot about my grandparents who have passed. There’s still like a presence in our kind of storytelling. Like I have their memories and it’s sad, but it’s also happy, like explaining that in. Giving them language for that, but I I think the bigger thing here is that not to make it something that she can’t talk about, because I think this exploring of curing all death is her trying to process, like Jamilah said, her own death and also maybe the eventual death, it sounds like, of her grandfather and maybe just the things she’s seen going on around them. I don’t know. I think you have to have the hard conversations. But Aymann, what do you think?

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S4: OK, so I’m still learning here and I find a lot of value in what you said, but I would have inclined to just play along for as long as I can until I have to have that conversation. I don’t know. I’m not going to talk to my kid and make them think that there is like the tooth fairy or anything like that. But if they come to me and they say, hey, I believe in the tooth fairy, this is very real for me, I’m going to try and meet them in their world and try to enter into the world rather than try and take them out of it. I mean, six years old is really young. I don’t have a six year old. I have a two month old. But I still feel like when he does get to that age, I’m going to try and prevent myself from centering his story around mine as much as possible. And so in that case, that would mean I wouldn’t want to bring him into my world where I’m still I’m struggling with the idea of dying. I’m worried about my my own parents and his grandparents or my dog if they want to create a cure and and, you know, and solve these big grandiose problems, I think maybe help them with it, you know, and try and see how far their imagination will go. Maybe that’ll set you up for failure down the line when they eventually discover there is no real cure. I’m inclined to think you handle those problems as they come. But if they’re going to, you know, want to play with Legos because they want to build something as big as the Empire State Building, I won’t sit there and say, well, son, you can’t do that obviously wrong. You know, I would say, let’s do it. Let’s sounds like a lot of fun, but that’s just me. I don’t know.

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S2: That is one of many approaches to parenthood. You know, there are times and I think there are times we pick and choose, like, do I tell you that this girl is unreasonable or do I allow you to dream bigger than, you know, reality? I am torn because like I you know, as I’ve discussed on the show before, particularly, we talked about my daughter becoming a big Selena fan, that I struggle with death. And it’s not something that I really want to spend a lot of time, you know, thinking about or talking about it. I do have a spiritual practice and a concept of ancestors that has given me a lot of comfort and something that I have shared with Naima. But in the absence of someone having that sort of framework, I think about, you know, that disclosure like, is it worth it to crush your little dreams now or should I just let you feel that this thing is possible? And I just think that there could be the seedling of I have this desire to end or alleviate human suffering and thus I could be guided toward a career in medicine. Right. I do think that for somebody who is profoundly because there are kids that find out that people die and are really curious about that in a different way, they want to see pictures of it or they wonder if it’s cool or fun or, you know, like that. Their curiosity is not. Immediately, OK, I want to stop this train, just this is a bad thing that happens, right? I don’t see death as a as terrifying or as depressing as your child does, even though I think it’s a pretty common reaction to not be excited at the idea of one day having to leave here. But I think that, like. I wouldn’t completely break away from the idea of saying, hey, you know, you can’t cure death, but what you can do is make death less common under certain circumstances. Right. Like with research around this thing, you know, everyone is going to die. Ideally, you get to live a long and healthy life. So if we can attack some of the reasons that people don’t get to live long, healthy lives, then we get to enjoy their company longer. Right. I think that. If you want to channel her energy into something productive, that you could have that conversation, you know, but I think that you have to either choose that realistic take on it or saying, you know, death is not something that can be cured, unfortunately, and this is something we have to make peace with. And it is something that I, as your parent, also hate also perhaps fear a bit. And we have to acknowledge that things are unpleasant, right. The world like there are things in the world that are that are unpleasant, life is uncomfortable and that there’s an instinct a lot of people have to, like, protect their children from all from any discomfort that they can, you know, but like. I asked myself, like, will this hurt more in the long run? And I just think about like playing at the idea of curing death or a couple of years only to have that taken away from you. You know what I mean? Like, might be more dramatic than having to just simply deal with what is at this moment. Right, particularly considering that she will not hear the death of her grandparents who may pass away before she’s old enough to really kind of be at peace with this sort of stuff. So I think this is just, you know, unfortunately, this is a time for uncomfortable conversation and letting your daughter know that, like. There are a lot of really great things about life and there are a lot of things that really suck, and this is one of the ones that really sucks. And you may not wish to try and put a positive spin on it. You know, you can just talk about the cycle of life and the magic of birth that every day new babies are born. And that life continues on, but the sadness and the feels that you’re going to have to deal with when this person passes away are going to be real. And I think that knowing your child’s kind of capacity for concern around death now, I would lean into dealing with what is at this point as opposed to perhaps delaying the inevitable.

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S3: I think that’s it’s very well said. And I I agree with you that it’s the conversation about death has to happen because you don’t get to control when your kid, you know, has to face that reality. You don’t get to control when you have to face that reality. And it it feels like this is the time for a lot of hugs and warm drinks and and leaning into the uncomfortableness and saying, like, I’m uncomfortable with this, too.

S2: Yeah.

S4: I’m so afraid of having that kind of conversation. So my instinct to to punt it further might be my own fears with having to to confront that reality on a child. You know, my parents were very honest with me about the realities of the world. You know, they wanted to protect us from the dangerous streets that we grew up on in Jersey City in the 90s. But they did so by telling us, if you talk to a stranger once, they’re going to kidnap you and, you know, it’s going to be like this whole catastrophe. But, you know, that instilled in me a lot of fear of strangers until one day I discover that that wasn’t true and that and I sort of held it over a gun the way between me and my mother’s relationship for a long time. And it wasn’t until I got older and I learned about like the level of crime in the neighborhood that I grew up in or like the crack epidemic and how that hit Jersey City pretty hard. It wasn’t until I learned about all these other issues where I started to understand where she was coming from. So I think you have to take into account where your child’s coming from in the sense where, like you said, Elizabeth, are they trying to reckon with the inevitable loss of you as a parent or is it something more playful? But at the same time, I think there is a level of truth that you can expose to someone without giving them the whole shebang. Right. You don’t have to explain to them that as an atheist, life is meaningless and we all just turn to dust and the sun’s going to explode. You don’t have to take it that far. You could just say something as simple as, you know, death is real. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. That’s why we have to make sure we have as much fun. And that’s why it’s so important that you eat your vegetables so that you don’t die sooner. I don’t know. I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about.

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S3: I know that was like perfectly now and now it’s recorded. You just play it for them when the moment comes right.

S4: I’ll call you be like, oh, Elizabeth Cohen explains better than that.

S2: Yeah, I get it. I get it. Well, letter writer, thank you so much for sharing this with us. An interesting us to weigh in. If you are listening and you have a parenting conundrum and you want to share it with Mom and dad are fighting, please do send it to mom and dad at Slate dot com or leave it on the Slate parenting Facebook page. Just go to Facebook and search for Slate parenting. And now we have our next listener question being read once again by Sasha.

S5: Hi, Mom and dad. How do you do with family members who just have zero concept of boundaries? This has been an ongoing issue with my parents, specifically my mom. She has done things like shown my graphic birth videos of my children to people I hardly know, lied about it, and then finally caved and just said it’s because she’s proud. They blatantly disrespect our parenting style, make comments about how we don’t need more kids and always ask how much we make and how much we are spending. Recently, when they found out that we looked at our house in a different city, they lashed out and said things like, I guess we’ll just stay out of your lives since that’s clearly what you want. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I’ve tried to talk to them about it, but then I find out from others that they are gossiping about me and saying that I’m a nasty person and that all I care about is boundaries, this and boundaries, that they’re not bad people. And once upon a time, we had a really great relationship. But the co-dependency is real. They are, however, great grandparents to my four kids. So I don’t want to completely sour the relationship, which is where we’ve ended up in the past when I wouldn’t give them details about things or when I tried to limit contact. Ideally, I’d like to help them see how enmeshed we are and possibly work on it if they’re open to it. But I know that it’s got to be a two way street. Can you help me navigate this?

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S2: Boy oh boy. This is my kind of question. You see a man. What do you think?

S4: I think they got a they got to be real with their parents. I mean, these are adults that we’re talking about. I don’t know if they should be held with kid gloves. I’m totally OK with sitting my mom and dad and being like, look, this is. We got to start doing it this way, but I don’t know what your relationship is with your parents, I don’t know if that’s going to sour something that’s going great. But I think as a parent, you have to maintain control. And if you lose control, you really don’t know what’s next and that stability can really get crazy. I saved my two months of experience. You know, my mom wanted to basically take my my son to the pool when he was just born. And she was like, well, all of his cousins are going to be there. This is a great opportunity for them. To me. They’re going to have pizza, all the stuff. I’m like, no, it’s not a it’s not going to happen. B will introduce him to the other babies when when we think it’s ready. And obviously she’s going to feel a certain type of way about it. But as long as I’m in control, as long as as the as the parent I get to make the decision, then I’m more than happy, more than happy. I don’t know if we need to make sure everybody’s on board with your decisions as long as they’re your decisions.

S3: Yeah, I letter writer. I think somehow you’ve become confused about what your role is like at some point. You’re not I mean, you’re still their child, but you are now an adult and you have to make rules for your own family. And I don’t know Jamilah if you feel like we get a lot of these kind of letters, like, I’m just thinking what happened that like, I understand it’s hard to talk to your parents as an adult. But this the funny thing that struck me about this letter is they’re like talking about how their parents can’t seem to set the boundaries. And I feel like, no, no, no. Boundaries are things that you set for and enforce for other people coming into your space. It’s not something that they’re supposed to know, like they’re doing what they want to do. It’s your job to say, like, this doesn’t work for our family. I specifically think here. Well, one Aymann, you’re absolutely right. If you can just sit down and talk to your parents like that, that’s what you should do, right? Like an any I believe that the more you do that and the more you have those conversations and they can be done in a in a kind, compassionate way, you know, the more that you grow that relationship of like I’m also an adult and now we have this new relationship of like adult parent to adult child. But I also think, like, you can’t control their actions. So, you know, if you shared this birth video with your mother, she got it. You can’t do anything about her sharing it out there. What you have to do is think about the things that I pass on into their hands. What are they going to do with it and what do I then want to pass on? How do I want to set up these these situations? You know, if you want them to still be great grandparents, have them take the kids for a weekend and be cool with whatever happened. Set up a weekly time in which there’s still these great grandparents. You can do that without sharing all this information. And I think when they say things to you, like, you know, it’s disrespectful that you’re moving out of the neighborhood or you’re doing this, you can just say we are looking at this house for these reasons. And when we you know, when we make a decision and we think it’s time to involve you, we will like those are the things you have to put into place. But then don’t you get cranky about like if you have a bad interaction with your mom over one of these conversations, don’t then, like, cancel the next grandparent thing, show up at the next grandparent thing and be an adult. Right. Like be there for your as your kid’s parents to have a good time because these relationships are two way streets. And it sounds like you’re going to have to take a little bit of this, like you may have to take a little bit of your mom saying, like, you shouldn’t have more kids. She can’t stop you from having more kids. If you want to have more kids, have more kids. And if she says that, you can say that hurts my feelings. But I think also you have to expect that she’s going to say some of that and you’re going to take a little bit of that. To have this good relationship with your parents and enforcing those boundaries means saying, like this opinion, you know, one, I’m going to bitch about this to my spouse or my partner, my friend. But that this, you know, do I need to then not have these conversations with my mom? And if they come up, then we just shut them down and say, you know, we’ve talked about it, I can’t have these or am I able to just take some of this and say, like, OK, Mom, and then turn around and call your sister and be like, mom’s crazy, you know, like whatever that looks like, figure out what that is and and enforce that boundary. But these are things you have to do, not things you can expect your mom to do.

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S2: Absolutely. I think on some level, some of what you’re describing are just grandparents, like people who can be really obnoxious and entitled to not only your child’s time, but like. Access to the decision making process around child rearing, because at one point they were the president of that and it is a hard fall. Other place, apparently, where you may have some influence, but you are not a decision maker. But I think that also I agree with everything that I Aymann and Elizabeth have said. I would just add think about your language choices when you’re trying to learn boundaries. For example, I don’t gather that your parents are the proper audience for phrases like asserting boundaries. You know, like they’re just some language just doesn’t work for some people. Like, it’s not like they don’t talk. Like if they don’t say things like enmeshed, then I would not use that language when engaging with them because they can come off as pretentious and it can be intimidating to somebody who perhaps doesn’t understand the nuance of what boundary setting really is, which to some people, it just sounds like what you literally think of when you think of a boundary like something in between me and you or something in between me and a place I feel like I belong, where it’s like by creating this boundary, I’m creating a more stable foundation for this family, you know, in which you can contribute to my parenting. You can’t influence my parenting style. And you can weigh in with your thoughts around certain things. But it’s within these boundaries. You know, it is not boundless. That just isn’t the way you want to explain it to them. You know, I think you need to talk about feelings, right? If if what they’re expressing to their folks and your parents could also just be jackasses like that happens. But if they’re telling people, you know, it sounds that like the gossiping about you sounds petty in the way that somebody who is hurt or offended may be petty, you know, as opposed to I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as opposed to just being nastier, malicious. And so talk about your feelings. When you asked me how much I make, I feel as though you’re saying you don’t think I can take care of my household responsibilities. So I feel like, you know, and maybe that’s not what you’re saying, but that is what it feels like to me. And be prepared to hear when you say you’re setting boundaries or when you say you’re going to move to another city, I am hearing you don’t want to be nearby. I mean, like. As somebody who lives on the other side of the country from her family, I am surprised they have not killed me because what a betrayal. What a cruel thing that I have done, you know, to all these people who love me that I have removed myself for. I’ve moved further and further away from home, know my since since going off to college and like. The idea of you doing that with this new baby for them, you know, maybe not that far away, but still the idea of you not being where you are now may feel hurtful and whether it’s not something for them to take personally, it’s something certainly for them to be sad about.

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S4: Yeah. One thing I want to add and everything that you just said of Jamilah was on point. But one thing I think we need to also consider is that like as a parent and this is something I haven’t really digested for myself yet either, is that as a parent, we aren’t the only ones raising our kids in the sense where everything we watch on TV is going to have influence. Every time they go play in the park with the kids, that’s going to have an influence. Their grandparents are going to have their own influence. So I think we need to also humble ourselves in the sense that we don’t really have full control over every single thing that’s out in the world. Yeah, that them sharing the video is uncalled for. That’s like we can set the boundary there. But if it’s about, you know, other things like them wanting to teach their kid in a certain way or instill certain values in the kids or where their grandparents, that’s the right. So I think there needs to be a certain level of relinquishing control. You know, as much as it’s our job as the parents to set the lines and set the boundaries, we also need to understand that we’re not the only ones with a stake in this kid’s life.

S3: I think that’s a really good perspective, too, especially because this specific letter writer, it seems like you still want that and there is going to be a giving up of some of your own own things. Right. And that’s a healthy boundary. Can be like allowing them more leeway in some areas than that, not in others. I think that’s a really important thing to realize, too. Like this is all happening because they care. They care about your kids and they care about you.

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S4: Yeah, my, my, my. I’m like in the news. Somebody close to my somebody close to my life tried to feed my baby And8 when they were one day old. You know, she brought it to the hospital and like that was what she wanted to do. And I was like, get that thing away from my baby. You have to get that thing away from my baby like something like that, where I thought it was like, OK, who’s at risk here?

S3: Yeah.

S4: And she was like, no, it’s fine. This happened to me when I was a baby. We do this all over, all over, all the time in Egypt. I’m like, well, I’m not here. No, no, no.

S3: Is there is there something else we could share instead?

S2: Maybe. Perhaps a prayer. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S3: Perhaps not solid food, but

S4: I think your plan was to chew it for the baby. Like feed it her like a no, no, no, no. We’re not doing that. No, not today.

S3: Oh my gosh. That’s funny.

S2: Literatura, thank you so much for sharing your conundrum with us. I hope that we were helpful and one last time, if you have a parenting challenge that you’d like for us to consider, please send us a letter, an email to mom and dad. It’s late dot com or leave it for us on the Slate’s Parenting Facebook page. Before we get out of here, let’s do some recommendations. Elizabeth, let’s start with you. What are you recommending this week?

S3: I am recommending something for a problem that I didn’t really know we had until we started school, which is that getting all the kids like their teeth brushed before. So when we homeschool, do you know, we could just like teeth, brush, whatever it was like. All right. Well, breakfast then. We’ll go back upstairs. We’ll take turns out this is like a major burden for getting everyone out the door in the morning. But we got these Quip kids electric toothbrushes and they have a little built in timer. I got him at Target. I think they’re like twenty five dollars and I just keep them in the downstairs bathroom and they’re like our morning teeth brushing. So like the we don’t have to like go to another location. All the kids can kind of do it on their own. Normally I’m like assisting at night and this has just made things like so much easier to just get a second toothbrush just for this and when they can do by themselves. And I still feel like is is doing a pretty good job. So the Quip kids, electric toothbrush,

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S2: nice little Elizabeth. OK, Aymann, what about you? What are you recommending?

S4: So at the very beginning when our baby was born, we had some people, close friends because it is a pandemic, but people that we trust who we knew who were vaccinated, we gave them permission to come and visit the newborn and say hi and take pictures. And so we were thinking, what on earth can we get? Is like, you know, party favors, but like little gifts, a little take away that they can take. And we mulled over making some things from scratch and making cards, homemade stuff. And my wife came up with the ingenious idea of getting one of those Instax, Max Polaroid cameras. It was getting a whole bunch of frames that are the exact same size. So every time anybody came in, they got to take a picture home framed of them holding the baby. And it’s like a little tiny three inch picture and it’s awesome, you know? And sometimes we go and visit some family who have visited often. So they have a couple and they have them all laid out like in their kitchen table or wherever and. Hallway, and it’s just really, really nice and thoughtful, everybody that’s gotten one of those pictures so far really charges. And there was just a genius way to make something that’s like super personal and portable. And, you know, it’s just it’s just everybody loves it.

S3: That is an amazing idea.

S4: Oh, they’re so sweet.

S3: It’s just like because that’s what everybody wants, right? Like, they came to see the baby and they get to take home.

S4: It’s like Six Flags. You go down the water, right. And you get a little picture and you get to go home with it.

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S3: I know. And you get the picture as a genius idea.

S2: That’s great. And that’s all anyone has ever had. And it’s pictures of them with the baby. Like, that’s my favorite thing ever is pictures of myself with all babies, any baby. So I am recommending And8 fitness. There are these twin sisters, Danielle and Dominique, and they do these dads face cardio workout classes on YouTube and there’s so much fun. They’ve got dolls you can Megalo Stallion and Armani and like, they’re just the twins. They’re just like adorable and cute. And like, if you’re not a great dancer, I think the like for this to be kind of like high intensity cardio like that, this is very accessible and like easy to do and a lot of fun. So if you’re like me, like I need my workout routine to be fun, like I really struggled to drag myself to the mat. Like if I’m going to be doing something that’s just physically challenging and they’re just bubbly and fun. And, you know, I’ve mentioned many times on here that I am a fan of twerk adjacent fitness stuff. So don’t go in there expecting to learn to like Lindy Hop or whatever Dan does. But guess it’s super fun. So And8 fitness, follow them on YouTube and Instagram and all that good stuff. And and the number eight,

S3: that sounds really fun.

S4: I forgot about that. I just took a look at my arms and they turned to speak

S2: to aliens like what is fittedness, who has time. People do that.

S3: That’s why the baby gets heavier.

S2: It’s it takes time. It takes a

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S4: lot to I don’t even think that I could do squats.

S3: But you will. You will. Carrying them around at night, all of that. You don’t have to worry about fitness for another.

S4: And when I get when I get better, I like yeah. I can do like the pizza toss. Right. Just like throw them in the air.

S3: Yeah exactly. When they get warm when their next get more you know, able to hold their heads up. Yeah.

S4: Oh poor Moossa

S2: Corvus. No lucky most lucky little baby. Lucky little sweetheart. All right. Well that is our show for the week. Thank you so much and welcome Aymann. I hope we were too tough on you and your first. Thank you. So episode sitting in for Dan.

S4: I know I’m not Dan, but I’m trying my hardest. You guys,

S2: it’s

S3: so excited to have you

S2: over. Just kidding. Dan, we miss you. So, you know, I love to tell Dan. All right. Thank you so much for listening. And one last time, if you have a parenting question, should head on over to mom and dad. It’s laid back or posted to this late parenting Facebook group. Just search for slate parenting. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Morgan Flannery for Elizabeth New Camp and Ayman Ismail. Aymann Jamilah Mumu. Thank you for listening. Let’s keep the party going, Slate plus listeners, speaking of parties, this is not going to be a very party sort of themed edition of Slate. Plus, we’re going to keep the doom and gloom of the general and the gloomiest episode of Aymann, that infighting ever. And it’s only about to get gloomier. This week, we received a comment on the Facebook parenting page from a listener who said, mom and dad, I would love a discussion about the recent U.N. climate report. The severe weather where I live has increased significantly this summer. My child has developed major tornado stress every time it clouds over. I can’t tell her these situations are rare, like when I was a kid. So how do we approach this discussion with our kids? On one hand, we don’t want to lie to them. On the other hand, we don’t want to put the weight of the world on their young shoulders. What do you guys think? OK, I will admit counter to everything I said in the death conversation, I have not so much has uttered the words climate change to my child in eight years and I was just kind of hoping somebody else could be the person in charge of communicating that idea, because I have taught her about so many of the patriarchy and racism and, you know, all these other, like, calamitous things that we have to deal with. I can’t be the one to tell her that the world is ending. What about you? Oh, are you all like having that will Aymann? I know you’re not having this conversation yet, but I’m curious to know what your plan is. Not yet what your plan is. What, Elizabeth, how engaged are your boys with the truth of what is going on with the planet?

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S3: We are like highly engaged in this conversation all the time. And I think it fundamentally comes from the fact that, like part of the reason I want to home school and part of the reason that I like like having the kids doing all this, like I always am recommending nature stuff. And all of that is because I think it’s so important to understand the relationship of nature and humans. And once you start doing that and you’re outside and you’re seeing these things, the conversations are so natural. Right. Like when you’re talking about not only the wild weather, but like we find dead birds and we you know, even in my child’s very short nine years, he knows that we find more dead birds now than we used to find. And that’s not because we’re out more so talking about those things. And I, I think the hard part I mean, is that, like, I’m obviously scared about this. So, again, like how do we have this conversation? And I think because I tend to be kind of an optimistic person, I believe that one, by trying to really get them to understand the relationship between us as humans and our use of nature and our respect for nature like that will help. But also us always talking about like, what else can we be doing? And that’s everything from like when they hear stuff about taxes or about, you know, saying like, yes, we need to be paying more for our recycling. We need to be paying more for gas because not because people need to line their pockets, because when we drive our car, it is bad for the environment. And that costs money to fix, like having those kind of conversations, because the way out of this seems like one. Yes. Like we all need to recycle and and live more locally, like things like that. But the bigger picture is like we have to spend more money on the environment. And that means that for as much as I want the kids to be financially responsible, I need them to also understand that part of that is paying for the damage that we’re doing and that if we want to continue these things, like if we want to travel, we need to offset the carbon from travel simultaneously while developing other methods of, you know, like better batteries, better solar power, better. All these clean energy is like talking about that, but trying to get them to understand what their responsibility is both as people, but also kind of as this fact of life, of like we have to pay for these things, because I think fundamentally that’s what it’s going to it’s going to come down to, is like those of us that can shoulder the burden of that are going to have to because there are huge swaths of the of the globe that are suffering much more devastating consequences to global warming than than we are. And they cannot, you know, shelter the financial burden as well as like the like where are they going to live when when the sea water rises, where like these are big problems. But I think also phrasing it is like I’m I’m raising these hopefully great kids that think outside the box and hopefully we can come up with solutions as well as the kind of this two part of like understanding that that everything we do is not good. And I don’t know that we talk about that enough. I don’t know. I’ll hear what you guys say. But I think it’s OK to tell people like, yeah, we like to travel, but plane travel is bad. And so what can we do if we want to keep doing that? What else can we do so that we can do that? But. Also, you know, offset offset the bad.

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S2: Is this something you’ve given any thought you get?

S4: Yeah, but it might be besides the point, but I’ve decided it all before even my mother was born, I knew that I wanted to raise him in a religious community that really centered charity. So I want him every week to be in an environment where there’s like a soup kitchen where there is people who are not, you know, as well off as we are who who are there, who are available for him to help or who we’re going to be part of this community. And part of this is experience. You know, I also want him to when we’re getting him books or toys, I want him to also have to give another toy or book away so that he can be thinking about upcycling things and recycling things, you know, so I’ve given thought to those kinds of things. But when it comes to something like climate change, you know, my family comes from Egypt. And so we were already thinking about when we do go to Egypt, we wouldn’t just stay at the resort. Our kid also needs to see the lived experiences of a normal, ordinary people who are impacted by these kinds of issues. You know, and I don’t know. I remember that little girl from the Animaniacs who every time she would like ask anything, she was like, why, why? Why? I don’t know why. I feel like Moossa would be doing this a lot of the same thing. So I was going to do, you know, every time we played that game, I give them the real answers. Well, the environment suffering. Why? Because we’re creating too much plastic and more plastic has been made in the past 10 years in the world in our entire lifetimes as humans. Why? Well, you know, people are trying to cut down on expenses when they’re trying to mass produce things. Why? Well, you know, just kind of take them down the thing, maybe turn into productive or maybe this is all just my fantasy and he’ll just be interested in sports. And that’s I don’t know.

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S2: You know, I, I sometimes wonder if I’ve done a disservice by, like, being pretty honest about the fact that the world kind of sucks. Like at no point has she ever just been able to just believe that things are magic and toys just show up and everything is just, you know, going to be OK. Like a you know, we haven’t talked about climate change, but I guess I’m sure at some point some element of it or some consequence of it has found us in some way. And I’ve had to explain something related to it. And like oftentimes what we haven’t had to fill out like this is capitalism talk. Like we talked a little bit about it, like I’ve tried, but I haven’t gotten too deep into that. But like in general, you know, I’ve tried to reiterate the idea that there are a lot of very powerful people in this world that are very greedy and who make decisions on behalf of themselves and their bottom line. You know, like they want to make a lot of money and that’s why these things are happening and just try to keep it in that place, you know? But I wonder. I don’t know. Like, I get I mean, this was a different conversation when we were children than it is now. But like, how much? Like, I remember we I guess and we’re all kind of around the same age, the height of the like. Recycling is going to fix some shit propaganda like Captain Planet. Everything is like you’re going to save the planet. Like we had some to us. Yeah, it’s up to us, you know, and like I think us being sort of charmed by, like the most like any effective solutions possible that, like, redirected responsibility from corporations to consumers like, you know.

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S3: Yeah. Stop using straws as opposed to like, no, stop burning carbon.

S2: Oh, my God. Side note about stuff using straws. I went I found my new favorite bar in L.A. It’s a tiki bar and they use paper straws. Furley, gross, eat, drink,

S3: drink, drink, fouls are nasty, they disintegrate, they

S2: just the bartender, like, handed me a straw like halfway through my drink, like you’re going to need this

S3: and you’re going to need another one.

S2: This is awful. That is a sacrifice.

S4: I was like sucking on a cardboard box. It literally

S3: is. It’s like it’s it’s

S4: it’s like when you’re eating a pizza and you take a bite of the box

S3: and they just disintegrate and get worse and worse. Like I, I agree with you, Jamilah. I feel like the problem is we were taught like we have to do it and it’s not us. But the good what I do think is the good news is like our generation pretty much is like climate change is a problem and we are causing it. Right. Like we don’t have some of the problems that I think older generations have of like let’s discuss what the like I I in general, there are, of course, people in general, it seems like polling. All of that suggests that people understand that climate change is happening and they understand that humans are largely responsible for it. And that’s something I I think the the next step is like having children understand, you know, that that this is something that has to become the center, like our home. The only place we can live, we are destroying. Right. So this has to be the center of everything else you do going forward. So anything you want to develop, that has to be a tenant. I think I’ve talked about like instead of asking my kids what they want to do when they grow up, I always ask them, like, what problem do you want to solve? And then encouraging kind of that kind of thinking like, OK, well, and how will solving this problem, how are you also going to make sure that you not only don’t make the Earth worse, but like, how are you going to make sure that that makes the Earth like physically a better place? You know, and and also we’re going to have to adapt to things. I just think kids see this stuff like you can’t you can’t hide it. I’m so against hiding things because I think it just leads to these moments where you’re, like, left just totally like you’re setting them up to fall off that cliff, I think is the analogy Jamilah used before that I really liked. But like, how do we not scare them and give them anxiety, which I think is like that. I fundamentally still believe in some hope. Right. Like I we humans can be incredibly amazing and incredibly caring. And and if we focus more on that, maybe we really can find our way out of this problem. Right. Like I, I to me, there will always be that. Is this like this hope that even in these moments of terrible corporate greed, there are people that are making amazing strides and that are helping other people and that put other people before themselves. And so how do I highlight that to my kids and and tell my kids that that is what is important to me? Right. Like, I want them to make a living and not have to worry about things, but also that, like having the most amount of money is not the most important thing. Like what is important is that we’ve we’ve cared for other people and that we like are leaving like our home better. You know,

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S2: I love that. I love the idea of like, what is the problem that you’re going to solve?

S3: Jamilah you had once mentioned the series that like is a kid’s book about and I really love there. There’s a kid’s book about climate change and it’s really great. And the other one I really like is old enough to Save the Planet by Lowell Kirby. There’s a million great books. These are two that we got from the library and then ended up adding to our home collection that are just really, really nice. And I think my final thing is that, like, actions speak louder than words. And so you need to be modeling the behavior you hope for your your children to have. Right. Like, it’s it’s great to give up straws and all of that. I know that’s all part of the plan, but we also need to be like just more aware of what our actions do and how we can offset what we’re doing and also the way that climate change is going to affect poor communities, that that’s just say, just like everything else, they’re going to take the larger burden. And so how can we do things now? And that’s one of the things that when you said you said, like, I want to be in this service, like raising in the service oriented atmosphere. And I think that is about climate change. And Jamilah, you said you haven’t talked to him about climate change, but like you talk a lot with her about like other communities and about racism and about just kind of the world in general. And all of that is fundamentally, at this point, climate change. I think that’s just my opinion.

S2: Is that Elizabeth? Well, thank you so much, dear listener, for putting that question to us and making us have to confront that difficult reality. That concludes the dreariest episode of Mom and Dad are fighting. Next week, we’re going to talk about bubble gum and lollipops and gumdrops and all nice things. Thank you for listening. And we will talk to you next week.